Barre puts youth crew ‘out to pasture’

July 30, 2018 | 

Barre puts youth crew ‘out to pasture’

David Delcore | July 26, 2018

Staff Writer, Times Argus

Photo Credit: Washington County crew members of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps dig a water bar for erosion prevention Wednesday at the Cow Pasture recreation area in Barre. The group is also removing invasive plants in the upper meadow area of the pasture. From left are crew leader Jessie Warren, of Johnson, Luke Belitsos, of East Montpelier, Hadarah Bock, of Calais, and Alex Pouliot, of Barre. (Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo)

BARRE — The way Phoebe Osadchey-Brown sees it, swinging a pickaxe in the rain beats manning a cash register at Price Chopper.

Many might disagree, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one of them with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC). Crews have been spending part of the summer tackling projects on 67 undeveloped acres in Barre known locally as the “Cow Pasture.”

The name is a bit deceiving because the municipally owned property was actually used as a pasture for the city’s work horses in the late 1800s.

Not anymore.

Now, it’s a valuable recreational resource due in no small part to the hard work of VYCC participants like Osadchey-Brown.

Osadchey-Brown is 15, lives in Orange, attends U-32 Middle High School in East Montpelier and was swinging a pickaxe without worrying about the weather in Barre on Thursday.

“I did not want an ordinary … supermarket job,” Osadchey-Brown explained, leaning on her pickaxe and letting fellow crew members Chandra Becker and Alex Pouliot continue working on one of the “water bars” they are replacing to prevent one of the Cow Pasture’s trails for washing away.

“I wanted to get out in the woods, camping … away from everything,” Osadchey-Brown added, before resuming her work.

Mission accomplished.

Osadchey-Brown was joined by Becker, who recently graduated from Montpelier High School, Pouliot, who is set to start Spaulding High School in the fall, and Roy Wescom, who also attends U-32, for their second four-week tour with VYCC this summer.

This one started on Monday in Barre, where the crew, loosely led by Kent Harlow and Jessie Warren, will continue working through the end of next week while camping during the week at Wrightsville Beach in Middlesex.

“It’s not every job where you get to camp out with your co-workers Monday through Friday,” Harlow said.

That was a big part of the draw for Becker, who dropped his pickaxe and ran down a dog that made off with his trail mix before the rain came.

“I really like outdoor work,” Becker said when he was back at work on the “water bar.”

A series of “water bars” and “crib walls” installed by other VYCC crews in recent years have funneled water off the Cow Pasture’s well-used trails, preventing damage caused by erosion.

“It protects the trail,” explained Pouliot, who lives in Barre and is the only member of the VYCC crew that had been in the Cow Pasture before Monday.

The others are getting to know it and Nick Richards, 16, of Williamstown, ticked off the list of invasive species the crew has been tasked with removing to make a meadow area more attractive to migrating songbirds.

“Honeysuckle, barberry, buckthorn, bittersweet and … amur maple,” he said, reaching for the last one while stretching in the street with fellow crew members near the Maplewood Avenue entrance to the Cow Pasture before staring work.

Zuzu Thamm, 15, of Moretown, also knows the names, but is better at spotting the invasives in the field than identifying what she’s found.

“I know them when I see them,” Thamm said, explaining she knows honeysuckle and buckthorn when she sees it, but has a harder time differentiating between bittersweet and barberry.

“They’re all bad,” she said, gazing with some pride at a brush pile that is getting bigger by the day.

The pile will continue to grow, more of the “water bars” will be replaced and a fence installed by a past VYCC crew will be repaired before the crew leaves Barre for its next assignments in Waterbury and Montpelier at the end of next week.

Harlow said the crew will spend the final two weeks of this session working on mountain bike trails and conducting stormwater and culvert assessments.

Half of the first four-week session was spent clearing culverts in Barre Town and the other half addressing an erosion control problem that has made a Class 4 road in Woodbury largely impassable.

Harlow said four current crew members — Thamm, Pouliot, Hadarah Bock, 16, Calais, Luke Velitsos, 18, of East Montpelier — did not participate in the earlier work, but signed on for the second session.

“They’re learning a lot, working together, contributing to the community and having some fun,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”